You might be getting the idea that despite my interest in organic food, I don’t care very much or pro-organic images shared on Facebook. That’s partly true and partly false.
I’ve found that it’s better for me not to become a fan of popular organic food pages because I get too frustrated at some of the content that shows up in my feed if I do. Despite that, I enjoy the recipes and ideas that are frequently posted by my organic-minded friends. I certainly dislike fat-shamey and anti-science posts, but there is one particular kind of post that really hits close to home.
I’d like to suggest that those of us who love organic food stop telling sick people that they’d be healthy and off all of their medications if they just switched to an all-organic diet.
I’ve written before about the fact that my husband Chalupa is chronically ill. I worry that to list the details of his illnesses here would be an invasion of his privacy, but let me put it this way: Chalupa isn’t blessed with health. Most of his problems are pulmonary in nature, which means that he gets a lot of advice from people about how to cure his asthma. Almost everyone is well-intentioned, but what they don’t realize is that his prescription cocktail–made up of more than a dozen daily medications plus occasional rescue meds–is the only thing that keeps him functioning on a daily basis. We have been fighting his lungs for our entire marriage, and believe me, if he could get off his drugs, he’d do it.
The thing is, Chalupa’s issues aren’t related to food sensitivity. He is severely allergic to the world around him–both indoors and outside–but not to food. He has a partially paralyzed diaphragm. His throat is not formed right. His lungs are scarred.
When I see images like the ones in this gallery, I get defensive of my husband, because all the organic lettuce in the world isn’t going to make his diaphragm move again or re-shape his throat or get his bronchial tubes working right again.
Although he’s a good sport and has tried pretty much everything–eliminating dairy from his diet, cutting out all fast food, dramatically reducing his meat and salt intake, taking tons of Vitamin C, switching to all organic produce, etc–none of those things have made a difference.
What makes a difference are his drugs.
Lots and lots of drugs.
I understand the sentiment behind images like this. The idea is simple and honest: if we ate better, we’d have fewer health problems. This I can absolutely get behind! I think that so many of our health problems are linked to our diets–and the fact that so much of our food is processed. I think that if more of our food offerings were organic, then we would have a collectively healthier society.
But the majority of these images aren’t targeted toward society–they are targeted toward the individual.
Specifically, they target the sick individual.
Sick people don’t need to start eating organic and stop taking their medications. That’s a dangerous thing to promote, and I don’t think that’s the intention of these posts. However, it is the idea that is communicated to me when I see these images: if you’re unhealthy, it’s because you’re not eating enough organic food. If you’re on medication, you’re just buying into Big Pharma. If you eat organic, you will be healthy.
We don’t live in a binary world of “people who eat organic” and “unhealthy people.” Sometimes, “unhealthy” isn’t linked at all to what a person does or eats–it’s a fact of nature, an anatomical issue, a rare cancer, an injury, a mental illness. There are healthy people who eat organic, healthy people who eat processed junk food all the time, unhealthy people like Chalupa who eat a ton of organic food, unhealthy people who eat junk food all the time. We’re not lucky enough to live in a world where most people can change their health simply by changing a few details in their diet. Some of us just have to deal with illness.
This reminds me so much of the faith healing movement–if you just pray hard enough, you’ll be healed. I believe that prayer can do amazing things, but you don’t go off your life-saving or life-improving meds just because you have faith that God is going to heal you.
If a person is able to make dietary changes that affect their health, that is wonderful. They should definitely give it a try, and if those changes benefit them, they should embrace those changes wholeheartedly. And celebrate those changes. The I want to communicate here, though, that sometimes that’s just not possible, and for we shouldn’t attempt do things that shame people who aren’t as lucky as those of us who have good health.
We can greatly improve our lives through a great diet, but let’s not send people the hurtful message that their illnesses are a result of their diet–especially when that is medically untrue.
This post originally appeared on my blog, Liz Boltz Ranfeld. The gallery feature there is a bit better than what I can do here, so you can see a lot more examples of these images at the link if you want to.